Ski Mountaineering

Mt. Williamson and her two 14K' Horns

Sep 2-5, 2011

May Adachi

I had a most extraordinary Labor Day holiday! I was invited by my friend Aysel Gezik & Scott Swaney to climb the second highest peak in CA, Mt. Williamson, & her 2 horns. We traveled, off trail, along, or below the Northeast ridge.

We started at 4:20a.m. on Sep. 2 at the end of a dirt road about 4-5 miles south of the Shepard pass trail head. We had a forth member that first day, too, Verdi. He retreated, though, at the end of the first day, just when we got to the northeast ridge, as we weren't able to find snow to make water by then. Unfortunately, just after he left, Scott located a hidden snow field via a rappel from the ridge. So, we 3 bivwacked in a spot used for previous bivwacks, perhaps even Ron Hudson in 2002! Aysel melted snow for drinking & made us tea; so nice. It was a lovely windless night, & a good thing, as neither Aysel nor I had sleeping bags. She had a bivwack bag, & I had a down parka & space blanket!

Sat. a.m., 9/3, we donned our rock helmets, & followed the ridge, or traversed along below it on the east side until we got to the Eastern Horn, in the early afternoon. So far, in 2 days, we experienced class 2 & 3 climbing, with a little class 4, & generally stayed off the ridge, avoiding rope climbing, which would have taken a lot more time, according to Scott. We reached the top of the West Horn around 5-6p.m., & opted to stay there in a beauty of a bivwack spot, rather than trying to rappel down, necessary, in order to get up the final Williamson ascent.

This night, unfortunately, we had no tea, as we didn't collect snow for water, as we could have done. And it was a night full of winds gusts. My space blanket, unfortunately, got ripped by my boots & rocks. Fortunately, Verdi had lent me a rain poncho when we started. Aysel & I both spent a long, cold night. It was the longest night of my life, in fact! Scott noticed that the water in his bottle was frozen even! But we survived, & this was my very first time to sleep on top of something 14,000' high!

This holiday morning, Mon., Sep. 5th left us nothing to do but rappel down! Scott found a route, & even found my backpack that had slipped down the cliff unbeknownst to me! Fortunately, it was right on our route. It was all very thrilling for me, & it was a relief to finally get to do & get through 2 rappels. Scott & Aysel even found others' slings. Left was a traverse & a couple more rappels, then up to the Williamson plateau!

We got to the peak midday, after Scott gathered snow for our water consumption. Aysel made tea on top. We took in the views! Stupendous! Whitney & Tindell, the Palisades way back there. So many other peaks; I forget their names. A young firefighter from San Francisco was the only other who came up to the peak while we were there. He'd come up the Shepard pass trail. Scott & Aysel radioed Verdi, & were able to make contact!

The descent, via a sometimes use trail, down a northeast gully was arduous & tough. I was out of food, besides, & had little energy. When we stopped at a lake in the valley, Scott gave me a Cliff bar, & Aysel, a nice German cookie. They saved me! It was still a long, rocky, but beauteous haul around lakes, one still partially frozen & turquoise blue in color, & up to the pass. We finally got to the Shepard pass trail, & ran into a couple small groups camped by the lakes. Verdi, in the meantime, drove Scott's car to the Shepard pass trail head, & walked up the trail. We met him below Anvil camp, I think it was. He had lovely pistachios & figs for us, & helped carry packs. So sweet. Aysel had carried the 2 ropes down from Williamson to the Shepard pass trail. She and Scott are both tough and strong as can be; they're nothing but magnificent!

We got back to the trail head at 11p.m. And I got home to Pico Rivera at 4a.m., slept a couple hours, and cycled off to work, but was 7 minutes. late. I NEVER come back from travel at 4 in the morning! A very wondrous, but strenuous holiday it was! I loved it!

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